Already minus their starting power forward, the Warriors will have just a fraction of their back-up center. Festus Ezeli is playing through a sprained right knee. As a result, he has to wear a bulky brace which is limiting his mobility and explosiveness.
However, coach Mark Jackson may not have a choice but to play the limited Ezeli in Game 2 at the Pepsi Center. With forward David Lee out with a torn right hip flexor, the Warriors may need the rookie out of Vanderbilt to eat up minutes. Ezeli said he’s ready.
“My leg ain’t broke,” he said with a smile before the game.
Ezeli sprained the knee in the season finale at Portland last Wednesday. He only played six minutes in Game 1, partly because he wasn’t moving well (and because starting center Andrew Bogut was lights out.
Ezeli hasn’t been cleared to play without the brace so he has less than his usual mobility and explosiveness. He said the brace slows him down and limits his jumping. It’s a sleeve with a metal fixtures designed to hold his knee in place.
Still, Ezeli said he’s ready to bang with Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried, a relentless power forward known as “The Manimal.” How will he hang with one of the most energetic and physical bigs in the playoffs?
When asked, Ezeli didn’t saw a word. Just tapped the left side of his chest.
If Jackson doesn’t play Ezeli, or pulls him early if he doesn’t like his movement, that could mean minutes for veteran back-up Andris Biedrins. He’s been dealing with back pain.
Jackson has been playing the underdog card since he arrived in Denver. He was asked if he still needed to sell that Denver was the better team and George Karl was the better coach.
“I didn’t say that they were better and I didn’t say George was the better coach,” Jackson quickly retorted. “I said I’d give them the check mark if I were sitting on the other side (with the media).
“Now what was the question? I just wanted to get that clear.”
Jackson went on to admit that the Warriors were underdogs and they should be.
“They’ve earned the right to be the favorites, across the board for 82 games,” Jackson said. “They’re the No. 3 seed for a reason. They’ve been dominant at home. I understand that.”
Warriors forward Draymond Green watched the replay of the game-winning basket of Denver’s Andre Miller in Game 1. Over and over and over. He is clearly still frustrated he let Miller slither by him on arguably the Warriors’ biggest defensive stand of the season.
“I just wanted to see what I did wrong,” Green said.
He said his mistake was dropping his right foot back when Miller started to drive instead of sliding laterally and cutting him off. He said that gave Miller the angle he needed.
The rookie out of Michigan State said he wasn’t expecting help (center Andrew Bogut was late getting over). Green said he approached the possession as if he was on an island. So he takes Miller scoring as a personal breech.
“He’s a pro. I understand the frustration. I understand being upset. Sometimes, you’ve got to let that marinate a little bit. He’s a guy that wakes up the next day and get back on the horse. … I’m going to trust him. I’m going to call his number. I’m going to believe in him. He works his tail off. You look at Tony Allen last night and he thinks he lets down his teammates. He’s going to be put in that situation again, and so will Draymond Green.”
If the Warriors need a stop on the last possession again, Jackson won’t have to worry about calling Green’s number.
“I’m asking for it,” Green said. “Absolutely.”
* Karl said his team spent time in practice preparing for the Warriors’ zone, which had success against the Nuggets in Game 1.
“We need to try to pass the ball a little better,” Karl said. “I thought we had some good possessions against the zone, but it just messed with our flow more than anything. We have to be ready for both the 2-3 and the 1-2-2. … We’d prefer not to play against it and run and not let them set up their zone.”
Golden State employed the zone to negate the Nuggets transition game. Denver finished with just 15 fast-break points. The zone works for the Warriors if they rebound, which they did well in Game 1 (55-45). Despite losing their best rebounder in David Lee, Jackson said the Warriors will still use the zone.
“There are no surprises,” Jackson said. “We will play a 3-2 zone ats ome point. There will be openings. We will dare them to shoot jump shots and make them. No surprises at all.”
* Lee will be sitting on the bench during Game 2.